With the NBA’s announcement last week that the 2019-20 season would return on July 31 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., oddsmakers got right back to work in establishing conference and league title odds. With the neutral atmosphere and everything that has happened since the league last played in March, bettors will have a lot to consider.
Let’s look at some variables that will be challenging for bettors:
Neutral courts: This will be unlike any NBA postseason, with neutral courts for the rest of the season. Does this mean teams’ road performance will be a huge indicator of how well they do? Does any team, specifically the local Orlando Magic or regional Miami Heat, get a slight edge? Does the prospect of teams potentially being able to ship down their home floors for certain games or the piping in of video-game fan sounds play any role? All we can do is speculate.
Lost momentum: With what will have been essentially a 4½-month break from games, any momentum teams had developed is essentially moot. This could be important for teams like Milwaukee, Denver and Utah that weren’t playing their best basketball when the season went dark. Alternatively, the Lakers, Thunder and Pacers seemed heading in the right direction then, so will their play fall off from when we last saw them?
Healthy return of key players: Though neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving will return for the Brooklyn Nets, nor will LaMarcus Aldridge for San Antonio, some players who were not healthy in March will be able to give their teams full contributions again. This includes Victor Oladipo of Indiana, Jusuf Nurkic of Portland, Kristaps Porzingis of Dallas, Jimmy Butler of Miami and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia. The status of these players before the break ranged from day-to-day to slowly recovering to missing the whole season. Take stock of every team’s roster situation when the action returns.
What if a player contracts COVID-19? This is the ultimate open-ended question. The league is installing medically guided protocols to quarantine players and try to keep the proceedings virus-free, but of course something could happen. Will players miss extended time? How will it impact teams’ psyches? The situation will be hanging over the league like a cloud for three months.
Not Nuts About Nets
With the Nets and Magic separated by just a half-game in the race for the seventh spot and the Magic set to play in their home city, I’m inclined to think the Nets will settle at No. 8 and draw the unenviable task of facing Milwaukee. With Durant and Irving out for the rest of the season, this team simply doesn’t have the talent to make a run. I would be apt to wager on sweep possibilities for that series. The Nets were just 12-23 in their final 35 games and really aren’t a worthy playoff team. Look toward 2020-21 and the return of Durant to start backing this franchise.
Orlando owns a 5¹/₂-game lead over Washington for the eighth spot, and considering the Magic were 8-3 SU and ATS in their final 11 games, I believe they were demonstrating they were a better team than the Wizards or the Nets. This is another team with some underrated young talent, led by big man Nikola Vucevic.